4 Patient Safety Initiatives Pharmacists Should Promote

Pharmacists can lead by example by promoting the FDA's patient safety initiatives in their practice settings.

Pharmacists can lead by example by promoting the FDA’s patient safety initiatives in their practice settings.

The FDA’s Safe Use Initiative involves a series of recommendations aimed at reducing preventable harm from medication errors.

Pharmacies, hospitals, and other health care entities that regularly interact with patients and their medications are among the partners that the FDA hopes to actively engage in its comprehensive initiative.

Here are a few current projects in the Safe Use Initiative that pertain to pharmacists:

1. Acetaminophen overuse

As a pain and fever reliever, acetaminophen is one of the most common active ingredients contained in US medications. Nevertheless, less than half of patients read the ingredients of OTC pain relievers, and many don’t recognize the danger of exceeding the recommended maximum acetaminophen intake.

But acetaminophen overuse isn’t only seen among patients, as studies show that 1 in 25 inpatients have been given a supratherapeutic dose.

As medication experts, pharmacists can play a vital role in ensuring that both patients and their fellow health care professionals are aware of the dangerous risks of acetaminophen overconsumption.

2. Atypical antipsychotic use in pediatric populations

The number of children receiving prescriptions for atypical antipsychotics is increasing, and so is the evidence of related adverse effects that include weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes in the pediatric population.

In particular, past research has shown that foster children are prone to receiving more than 1 psychotropic medication without having a true need for it.

In response to that study and others like it, many US states have implemented Medicaid prior authorization policies for these medications that apply mostly to children younger than 7.

Now, a more recent study suggests that the majority of prescriptions for atypical antipsychotics are issued appropriately.

Prescribers are encouraged to follow drug indication guidelines from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, while pharmacists can improve compliance by checking on patient regimens.

3. Medication nonadherence

Always a top concern among pharmacists, medication adherence is an essential component of care quality measures. Now that these measures are aligned with reimbursement, medication adherence is a matter of both patient and financial solvency.

The FDA has assembled tools that encourage communication between patients and health care professionals on a broad scale, in an effort to help both parties properly manage prescribed medications.

To find out more ways pharmacists can improve medication adherence, click here.

4. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) use in elderly patients

Prescribing and dispensing medications appropriately can be challenging in complex patient populations. There are often many factors to consider before accurately assessing a patient’s health needs, including cognitive issues, lack of social support, and fixed budgets.

NSAIDs pose a particular danger to elderly patients because the drugs are known to interact with antihypertensive therapies, and it is estimated that more than 50% of US patients ages 65 or older have hypertension.

The FDA is currently working with thought leaders and experts to develop “state-of-the-art” and evidence-based information for NSAID use best practices in older adults. The findings will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

In the meantime, pharmacists can work to identify, disseminate, and educate their fellow health care professionals on the variable degrees to which NSAIDs and antihypertensive therapies interact. Polypharmacy should also be a part of that conversation.